By Lynne Hutchinson / firstname.lastname@example.org
HUGE crowds filled Nelson Street this weekend to see the giant urban art gallery created by more than 60 artists.
Thousands of people were packed into the rundown area of the city centre all day for the See No Evil graffiti event, with many having travelled miles to view the work painted on the street’s buildings.
Even when it was raining on Saturday, there was still an enthusiastic group keen to watch as the finishing touches were applied to the massive murals.The exhibition was Bristol’s latest must-see event, with three times as many artists involved as originally planned and owners of buildings willingly putting them forward for decoration.
Hours of work were involved, with the artists working round the clock to get their pieces finished for Europe’s biggest outdoor street exhibition.
Organisers hope it will become Bristol’s next big tourist attraction, as a similar set-up in Melbourne, Australia, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. See No Evil has cost £80,000, half of which is coming from Bristol’s place-making director Mike Bennett’s annual salary. The other £40,000 comes from the city council.
The place-making role attracted criticism when it was created last year, with concerns it was a waste of money. The two-year fixed term post was set up to raise the city’s profile and attract more investment in the city. It has emerged Mr Bennett made the £40,000 offer to the council in May so he could start work on the See No Evil project.
He said: “It took a tremendous amount of hard work by a lot of people during the past 12 months but I’ve just been blown away by the success of it.
“The feedback we’ve had already has been unanimously positive.
“I think that what we’ve got here is a real ‘Team Bristol’ story – one which a lot of people have bought into to make it work.”He said it was difficult to estimate how many people turned up during the weekend but there was a limit of 5,000 at any one time.
He said: “I’m sure it will have a long-term positive effect for the city.
“There has already been a success story over the weekend but I’m sure there will be a positive economic impact for many months to come. We will be monitoring things over the next six months to see just what kind of economic impact it has had.”
The £80,000 has gone on a range of infrastructure costs for the scheme.
Speaking about the success of this weekend, event spokeswoman Jess Hellens said: “It’s been incredible, with a real mix of ages coming along, from little ones to older people, to see these amazing artists.
“Some travelled miles to get here, including a lot from London, so it’s been a really positive event.
“There have been 62 artists involved, some from Bristol and others from places throughout Europe, as well as Los Angeles and New York.”
Celebrated urban artist Inkie was among the organisers behind the transformation of Nelson Street.
He said: “It’s made the drabbest street in Bristol into the coolest place on the planet for the weekend.”
Throughout the day, visitors watched artists in action, bought prints and T-shirts and took children to workshops where they could have a go at creating their own works of art.
The party atmosphere built up and the event came to a close with a soldout music event at the former Royal Sun Alliance building.
Italian student Silvia Lanati, 30, said: “I’ve lived in Bristol for nearly five years now and this is a very significant event. It’s absolutely great and a fantastic example of people from so many different backgrounds coming together to enjoy something. I’ve seen people from the over-70s to little children here.”
Helen Fernandes, 27, a play leader of Westbury-on-Trym, said: “It’s a very exciting event. I like everything that’s been done.”
Katy Odedra, originally from Bristol but now living in London, returned to support her sister, the project co-ordinator Sarah Billing. , and got roped in to help a band of volunteers get the event ready.
She said: “Everyone involved has been brilliant and deserve a big thank you for what they’ve done.”
Anyone who missed the event can still head to Nelson Street to see the pieces in place.